Playing the Market in Free Agency

I'll be honest, I haven't been the biggest fan of Ryan Grigson and the Colts' strategy in free agency. 

That's not saying I think he's "lost" free agency or that he's a bad GM. As long as you don't kill your team's long term future in free agency, you're doing just fine. The danger of free agency is paying a huge contract to a risky player. Grigson avoided that, for the most part. As long as you don't ruin your team's chances in free agency and you draft well, you're a pretty good GM in my book. So far, Grigson has done both. 

That being said, I do think that the Colts have let a very good opportunity go to waste this offseason. They had the money to dramatically improve their team with a good free agent class. While they certainly have improved the team without mortgaging the future, which is always a good thing, they could have been much more efficient and impactful had they played the market better. 

Let's take a look at three deals to see the difference in what the Colts' did versus other deals on the market. 

Gosder Cherilus 5-yr, $34.5 million, $15.5 million guaranteed

I like the Cherilus signing, to be honest. I like Cherilus and thought he could be a potential signing at right tackle. However, the contract that he got is out of whack when you compare it to similar players. 

The other two top right tackles that have signed so far are Sebastian Vollmer and Phil Loadholt. Vollmer recently re-signed with New England on a steal of a deal, a 4-year, $17 million contract with just $8.25 million guaranteed. Vollmer is a better, more versatile player than Cherilus, so the fact that he signed for little more than half of what Cherilus received is remarkable. 

Loadholt, on the other hand, is closer to Cherilus' overall talent level, and his contract wasn't the complete steal that Vollmer's was. Still, Loadholt's 4-year, $25 million contract with just $700,000 guaranteed is a much better deal than Cherilus' monster contract. 

Greg Toler 3-yr, $15 million, $5 million guaranteed

Toler is a young player with a lot of potential, but he's also had a lot of injury issues. For some perspective let's take a look at Jerraud Powers' new contract, whom the Colts essentially switched with Toler. Powers also received a three-year contract, but it was only worth $10.5 million with $3 million guaranteed. Toler may be a slightly better player when healthy, when you take into consideration scheme bit, but is Powers only 2/3 the player Toler is? I don't think so. 

Outside of those two, however, there were several corners who would have been better deals for the Colts' secondary. Toler has very little  starting experience, and most of it came nearly three years ago. Other solid, proven starters got deals that weren't much more than Toler's. 

Sean Smith got $16.5 million over three years with $7.5 mil guaranteed. Cary Williams got $17 million over three years, but just $5.75 million guaranteed. Meanwhile, Chris Houston re-signed in Detroit for $25 million over five years, the same average as Toler with only $4.5 million more in guaranteed money. Houston is a very capable starter, one of the top CBs on the market this year. 

Toler has potential but is a bit of a risk with several safer, more  proven options on the market for similar money. 

LaRon Landry 4-year, $24 million with $11 million guaranteed

Landry's contract is arguably the worst of the Colts' free agency period (outside of Erik Walden's, which is just perplexing on so many levels). 

The only big contract comparable to Landry's is William Moore. Moore is more talented player than Landry, and one of the top two safeties in free agency. He signed with Atlanta for five years for $28.25 million and $14 million guaranteed. Another comparable contract was Glover Quin, who signed with Detroit for $23.5 million over five years, with just $5.25 million guaranteed. Moore is definitely better than Landry, and Quin I would put slightly ahead of him. 

Meanwhile there were several safeties that signed short, cheap contracts. These would be short term stop gaps, but really Landry shouldn't be much more than that anyway. Several solid starting safeties signed for around $2 million per year on short 1-2 year contracts, such as George Wilson, Kenny Phillips, Chris Clemons, and Bernard Pollard, a player very similar to Landry. The Colts will be needing to look for dynamic talent at safety soon, with or without the Landry signing. I would have rather seen a short term, cheap contract for one of those players (all who are very close to Landry's level). 

Conclusion

I like Ryan Grigson. The overall direction of the franchise is a positive one right now, and Grigson's drafting so far has been great. Granted, it's a small sampling size, but it's been very good so far. 

That being said, Grigson's lack of experience when he was hired was in scouting NFL players and team finances. He has a plethora of experience in scouting college players and preparing for the draft, but free agency is a weak spot, and it's shown in his tenure in Indianapolis so far. He hasn't ruined the team or anything, but it hasn't been particularly good either. It's a weak spot, and one that should be watched closely. 

Kyle J. Rodriguez

About Kyle J. Rodriguez

A film and numbers guru, Kyle writes about the NFL and the Indianapolis Colts for Bleacher Report, Draft Mecca and The Football Educator, and is a co-founder and associate editor of Colts Authority. Kyle also is a high school sports reporter for the MLive Media Group in Michigan, covering high school sports across the state.

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